Motif Of Sleep In Macbeth

1320 Words6 Pages
In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the moral roller coaster ride that the Macbeths take as they plot, fear, murder, and regret, can be traced by the motif of sleep, and its deprecation. At the beginning of the murder intrigue, Macbeth has trouble dealing with the physical, moral, and possibly existential ramifications of his treacherous actions. However, as the plot develops he grows more self-confident, before going insane with pent-up guilt and tension. In the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth, has a distinct lack of moral scruple, giving her the driving power behind this twisted plan. Later on, as Macbeth’s growing hubris marginalizes her role, her steely exterior cracks, and she goes insane, the barrier between her waking wrongs and her…show more content…
/ Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep. / Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, / The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, / Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course” (2.3.39-43). This voice that Macbeth hears is a hallucination, but because it comes from within the hidden parts of his own mind, as hallucinations do, it reflects what he himself believes to be true. It is important that before he talks about his guilt over killing his King, Macbeth, or rather, a part of his subconscious, starts worrying about how his actions have violated the seeming inviolability of sleep. The hallucination even went on to talk about how good sleep is, how it renewed one, how it brought a fitting finish to every day, and readied one for the next. This in-depth look at sleep shows Macbeth’s deep-rooted recognition of its sanctity, and his angst at his exploitation of such a time. While he is saying this, Lady Macbeth interrupts him, asking him what he means, and Macbeth replies with a continuation of his vision: ““Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor / Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more”” (2.3.46-47). In this line, Macbeth is named in three different ways, emphasizing the depth of his guilt. Not only has Macbeth ‘murdered sleep,’ but every piece of…show more content…
At some points she seems to think she is talking to Macbeth, but throughout her insane monologue, it is clear that she is reliving every bloody moment of the past couple months, and feeling deep remorse for her actions and suggestions. At the end of her speech she cries: “To bed, to bed! There’s knocking at the gate. Come, / come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone. / To bed, to bed, to bed” (5.1.53-55). Obviously unaware that she is already asleep, Lady Macbeth hurries to bed to get away from the anguish she is feeling over past actions. That instinct shows the ingrained sense all humans seem to have that sleep is a safe place. However, in this scene Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, so all the pain and regret she is feeling have managed to penetrate the safe, warm blanket of sleep, shattering the illusion of any barrier between the sleeping world and the waking. This command ‘to bed!’ is also partly a recollection of the night Duncan was killed, through her scheming and her husband’s daggers. In an almost exact parallel, Lady Macbeth said, “(Knock) I hear a knocking / At the south entry. Retire we to our chamber. / A little water clears us of this deed” (2.3.69-71), when visitors come to Macbeth’s

More about Motif Of Sleep In Macbeth

Open Document